Fury over death at clinic

Luyolo Mkentane mkentanel@avusa.co.za

A YOUNG Uitenhage woman died after waiting eight hours for treatment at a Uitenhage clinic while nurses “took tea breaks and gossiped”.

The death of Nosipho Jacobs, 22, from Blikkiesdorp, has sparked fury among residents of the area, who have accused nurses of treating patients like dogs.

Jacobs’s friend, Felicia Kaliko, said she had accompanied her to the Middle Street Clinic in Kabah township on Wednesday after she complained about throat pains and breathing difficulties while on her way to work.

Jacobs worked for a cleaning company.

“I accompanied her to the clinic at about 7am. I could see she was having difficulty breathing,” Kaliko said.

“She said she had severe throat pains and couldn’t eat and she was battling to breathe properly.

“Because of long queues, she had not been attended to by 10am despite her worsening condition. The nurses were on a tea break, they were busy gossiping.

“At about 2pm, a nurse told us the doctor would not be coming in.

“My friend could not take it anymore. She passed away right before my eyes at about 3pm,” an emotional Kaliko said.

Family spokesman Elizabeth Jacobs fought back tears as she spoke yesterday.

“The nurses don’t care for patients at that clinic.

“They all go on a tea break at the same time and leave patients to themselves.

“When I was called to the scene, I could see Nosipho was already dead. Her eyes were rolled back.

“This is very painful to us as a family,” Elizabeth said.

“We are going to have a family meeting regarding what kind of action to take against the Department of Health, whether to open a case against them or not.

“This unnecessary death would not have happened if there were good nurses at the clinic. The complaints box is useless because we have seen nurses opening it and reading the complaints before tossing them into the dustbin.”

ACDP councillor Marlon Booysen, whose constituency office is a stone’s throw from the clinic, said: “People are treated like dogs at this clinic. The nurses have absolutely no respect for the elderly people who go there.

“The clinic opens at 7am, but at about 9am the nurses go on a tea break. They start attending to patients at about 10am and knock off at 4.30pm.

“This is unacceptable because it means a large number of people go back home without having been attended to.

“We want a doctor and an ambulance to be stationed at the clinic on a full-time basis.”

When a Herald team entered the clinic at about 11am yesterday, there were long queues of patients in the waiting room and corridors waiting for medical help, but there were no nurses in sight.

Other patients were lying in the shade under trees.

The patients pointed to a room where the clinic staff had locked themselves in for a meeting. Matron SJ Madela flatly refused to answer questions, saying only: “There’s nothing to say about the death of that young woman. No comment.”

A group of more than 50 Blikkiesdorp residents protested outside the clinic gates yesterday.

They carried placards reading “Stop abusing our patients” and “Everybody has a right to healthcare”.

They also sang derogatory songs about the nurses.

Elizabeth Jacobs, who joined the protest, said: “This protest is not only about Nosipho’s death. It is also a platform for us to expose the lack of care we receive at this clinic.

“What has happened here can happen to any other family.”

The clinic falls in ward 48, which is administered by DA ward councillor Kenneth Kohl.

He said if there had been a doctor, an ambulance and sufficient clinic staff, “this would not have happened”.

“There is a shortage of staff in the clinic. Those nurses are under tremendous pressure.

“I’m going to ask the Eastern Cape Department of Health to provide us with mobile clinics to relieve the staff because people from Rosedale and KwaNobuhle also go there.

“I’m also going to ask the province to provide the clinic with a doctor who will be there from early in the morning until the time it closes in the afternoon.

“I’ll also call for the upgrading of the facility.” The provincial health department has promised to investigate and take action if the nurses are found to have been negligent.

Provincial spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said: “If it is proven that her death is as a result of negligence, appropriate action will be taken.

“But I must warn members of the public that any litigation against the department will be defended in court.”

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